Guest Articles

The Collaborative Economy – a disruptive revolution or another freshly dressed emperor?

by .
Originally published in The Foundation

By The Foundation and Simon Caulkin

People like doing things together.  Or at least, they tend to be more successful when they combine, much though we admire rugged individuality in theory.

The internet was created to help us share.  Originally it helped universities share research papers between faculties and institutions, then it helped share news, information and entertainment that went beyond academic interest.  Well, arguably anyway.  Then it reached out to the real world of things, helping us buy them more easily, sell them to each other, even give them away more efficiently if that was our wont.

Now two trends are coming together:

  • One from increasingly constrained resources and the need to make more from less – ‘why buy two when we can share one?’
  • The other from digital and the desire to share everything with everyone – ‘nothing has value until it’s posted on Facebook’

The combination has created a business revolution.  ‘We’ can replace ‘Them’.  We can solve problems ourselves, raise money ourselves, make, distribute and consume ourselves, enabled by digital-everywhere technology.  Is the role for big business over?  It’s not as if crowds are going to demonstrate on businesses’ behalf.

Often hype goes ahead of substance.  We want to take the temperature and get a better grip of where things really are.  So we arranged for some help with three points of view that have direct but complementary experience:

  • One, James Alexander, who left a big bank, albeit an innovative bit of one – Egg which was owned by Prudential – to create the world’s first peer-to-peer lender, Zopa, now flying high
  • One, Mike Fairman, who stayed in a big telecoms business – O2 as part of Telefonica – but still created the world’s first self-service phone company, giffgaff
  • And one, Charles Vallance, who through VCCP the advertising agency he co-founded back in 2002, advises many organisations by understanding human behaviour, and who on this subject sees recurrence and familiarity where others see only the new

You can read the rest of this article on The Foundation


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